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California v. Campbell

ELR Citation: 28 ELR 21024
Nos. 97-15308, 138 F.3d 784/46 ERC 1371/(9th Cir., 03/09/1998) Appealed on Eleventh Amendment grounds

The court holds that the Eleventh Amendment does not immunize a receiver of estate trusts from being sued solely in its representative capacity. The state of California filed suit against the trustees of a manufacturer's estate to recover cleanup costs at the plant. At the trustees' request, the Connecticut Superior Court, which had jurisdiction over the estate, removed the trustees and appointed a receiver over the trusts. A federal district court in California then substituted the receiver into the federal action in place of the trustees. The court first holds that it has jurisdiction over the receiver's interlocutory appeal. The central benefit of immunity, the right not to stand trial in the first instance, is effectively lost if a case is erroneously permitted to proceed to trial. The court next holds that the receiver cannot invoke the Eleventh Amendment to defeat California's action. The receiver has not satisfied the threshold requirements for establishing Eleventh Amendment immunity. It has not shown that California's action is "against" a state or an arm of the state. Although the receiver is named as a defendant in California's complaint, California's lawsuit is not against the receiver; rather, it is against those who allegedly polluted the soil and groundwater at the manufacturing plant. But California cannot directly sue those responsible for the pollution because they no longer exist. Cases that recognize an entity's Eleventh Amendment immunity are cases where the court is asked to determine the rights or liabilities of that entity. Conversely, the Eleventh Amendment does not apply in cases where the entity invoking the immunity is sued only in its representative capacity.

[A decision related to this litigation is published at 28 ELR 21020.]

Counsel for Plaintiff
Sandra Goldberg, Deputy Attorney General
Attorney General's Office
2101 Webster St., 12th Fl., Oakland CA 94612
(510) 286-4200

Counsel for Defendants
Dale C. Campbell, L. Burda Gilbert
Weintraub, Genshlea & Sproul
400 Capitol Mall, 11th Fl., Sacramento CA 95814
(916) 558-6000

Before Browning and Hawkins, JJ.